Small Spaces: Surviving a Small Refrigerator

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How to live with a tiny fridge.

When I first came to live in the States, I was completely astonished by the size of the refrigerators. When I was in the UK (admittedly a lot of years ago) people had fridges that were a fraction of the size. And we managed very well.

For my first years in the States I rented homes. Invariably there was a monolith refrigerator and I became very accustomed to them. But then when I bought my tiny apartment, with its correspondingly tiny kitchen, it was obvious that a mega-fridge was not going to fit in.

Or at least, it would fit in – it’s what the previous owner had – but it meant that there were few cupboards and the massive fridge completely dominated the tiny kitchen. Then I found one at Home Depot that would fit into my kitchen perfectly but wow, is it small!

Now this was twelve years ago and since that time, the small fridge has done an admirable job of keeping our weekly food fresh and we very rarely eat out so it’s been a busy little bee. All our neighbours, who have the same sized kitchen and who all own mega-fridges, have asked how on earth we manage and it’s easy. Here are my tips.

Get rid of unneccessary packaging

Be assured that when food suppliers package foods, they are not taking your storage concerns into consideration. They have their own agendas. Removing packaging can also help keep your food fresher for longer. Remove what you can and get that packaging into the recycling bin. Create your own ‘packaging’ to keep your foods separate based on your own needs. For example:

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I dislike the way vegetables can roll around unfettered in the drawer but I also need to remove the packaging to fit everything in. As you can see above, corn (normally kept on its side) is just the right size to stand upright in the drawer. They are held together by a rubber band that originally came with a bunch of asparagus.

Onions, if left to their own devices, will shed pieces of their skin which needs to be cleaned from the drawer. So I keep them in a cut-to-size milk container.

Above that you can see the cheese box. It’s actually one of those plastic shoe boxes. All cheeses live in there and this avoids finding forgotten hairy lumps of goo hidden at the back of the fridge. The shoebox slides out like the drawer so it’s easy to grab what you want.

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Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place but ideally not in the fridge. That’s all very well but here in South Florida, there’s no such thing. And the bags of potatoes are so lumpy and take up so much room. The answer is an old oatmeal container. It sits quite happily on its side.

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The fridge door

Those huge McFridges have loads of shelves on the door interior and even little compartments for eggs and butter. Our little fridge has just three shelves. To make the most of them, I removed the fronts and replaced them with  flexible and strong plastic strips. Because I cut them to be slightly longer than the original fronts, they bow outwards giving more space.

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They even hold jars in which I store just about anything. The shelves are only 1¾ inches wide and the jars I use have a 3 inch diameter so it would have been impossible to store jars there without the ‘bow fronts’.

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Sliding trays

One of the biggest problems with small fridges that aren’t at eye level is that items can easily get pushed to the back – and if they do, that’s more than likely where they’ll stay for a long time. This can be avoided by devising pull-out trays. They don’t have to be custom-bought.

Remember the cheese box is a plastic shoe box? Its lid is used on a higher shelf to hold bakery products. I can just slide it out to see what’s there. And opened jars of relishes etc – if they don’t live in the door – are in two plastic containers that were once office drawer dividers. I line the drawer dividers with paper towel so I don’t have to clean them.

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By the way, mushrooms are best kept in a brown paper bag than those plastic cartons they come in. I didn’t have one at the time I took this photograph but at least I removed the plastic film to avoid slimy-mushroom syndrome.

Remember that not everything has to live in the fridge

Some fruits for example will ripen so very slowly if at all if they are kept in the fridge. I keep these in a bowl on the counter. They look nice and can be transferred to the fridge (usually the door in my case) when they are fully ripe.

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Cheat!

We do. Did you notice that there are no bottles of beer, juice, bottles of water or wine in our fridge? In addition to our small fridge we also have a tiny beverage fridge that lives in the bedroom 🙂


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

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Author: Jackie Jackson

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